Dallas Does Diznee
Like the tragic Tennessee Williams heroine her drag name invokes, New York City's own Dallas DuBois knows how to take an icon and wring every last drop of Texas-sized drama, comedy, and sexy danger from it.
The musical theater-trained, Glammy-award nominee and Off-Broadway veteran won the "Most Popular" title at 2009's Miss Fire Island contest, then followed it up with a 2010 "Who's Next" award from Next Magazine. So the former Miss Grove Hotel also knows a little something about glamorous gowns and the responsibility that comes with being a reigning princess.
Fabulous dresses, long silky tresses and diva spins on fairytale stories all have a role to play in DuBois' current project: a drag-fueled spin on the finest queens ever to come out of The Magic Kingdom.
Friday nights at 10pm, your hostess Dallas Dubois and fellow nightlife royalty Holly Dae, Bootsie LeFaris, Pixie Aventura, Shenea DeDranke are turning the Laurie Beechman Theater into an always ballsy, occasionally bitter and unexpectedly sweet drag version of Uncle Walt’s Happiest Place on Earth called "Distorted Diznee."
Described as "an outrageous Las Vegas-style parody revue of some of America’s most beloved animated classics," "Distorted Diznee" is an ever-evolving 75-minute extravaganza of high-energy dance numbers, dazzling costumes and songs that deliver a very adult take on beloved Disney characters, while paying tribute to the queer factor appeal of Cher, Patti LuPone, Idina Menzel and Rihanna.
For boys who spent their short pants’ years dreaming of dressing as girls, it’s enough to make you believe in fairies-and fairytale endings.
Dallas DuBois did, and she still does.
"I’ve been a fan of Disney since I could walk and talk," DuBois recalls. "It was an outlet to express myself. I’d watch the movies and go to the musicals on Broadway, and it allowed me to create a fantasy."
A soft spot for Belle
DuBois, who says her childhood favorite was "Beauty and the Beast," cops to having a soft spot for Belle-but pegs fey French candelabra Lumiere as the film’s breakout inspirational character.
"He’s just a very eccentric character," DuBois gushes, "and of course, he’s got ’Be Our Guest,’ which is the showstopping number."
As for female Disney icons, her favorite is Cinderella. "For sure. I always wanted to be Cinderella, to wear the dress the mice helped build. When I would watch these movies, I’d always imagine myself in their [the heroine’s] shoes. And Disney [princesses] are these ultimate females. A lot of gay men face adversity growing up. They want to escape. So there [in the films] you find these characters who get to dress up in beautiful gowns and are whisked away to a magical fairy tale land. I’ve always loved anything that people would say was not possible. I was drawn to proving people wrong, by creating the impossible, and living the impossible."
Flash forward to Friday nights on a stage in New York, and DuBois says of living her impossible dream (with very little pride but with much underdog satisfaction), "That’s where I still come from."
Asked about her show’s crossover popularity (straight gals, queer allies and gay men who’ve no desire to play princess dress-up regularly pack the house), DuBois boils down the show’s essential appeal to two factors: First, "There’s so much that’s pure and innocent about Disney. Its characters are instantly recognized, and people have nostalgia for them."
Reason two makes the rainbow connection between larger than life screen gems and towering drag stage personas. Disney princess and villains, DuBois says, are both different scales of fabulous extremes.
Whether it’s the Little Mermaid or Cruella De Vil, "They’re such hyper-exaggerated feminine beings. They’re almost like drag queens. So when I came up with the idea [for the show], it was all about juxtaposing the innocence of Disney with the crude, witty, PG13 to R-rated behavior of drag queens. When audiences come in, they’re just waiting for it to be messed up. That’s what they’re expecting...being on the edge of their seat the whole time. It’s like being at the circus, where you’re kind of waiting for them to fall. It’s similar to that."
An alternative Mary Poppins
Except at "Distorted Diznee," the giddy thrills don’t come not from seeing the lion tamer get the mauling he deserves for cracking a whip at kitty-it comes from seeing squeaky clean characters like Mary Poppins revealed to be in full possession of appetites, addictions and flaws very near and dear to gay culture (hint: there’s more on her spoon than sugar). Disney villains are also fodder for parody, with a Mean Girls-style montage that’s more of a tribute to their cruel deeds than a slam at their sinister motives.
The affectionate yet cutting swipes at Disney have gone so well, DuBois and crew just announced they’ll be expanding their satirical plate to include icons from the Great White Way. Beginning in March, "Distorted Diznee" will alternate with "Distorted Broadway" in which the Diznee cast will have their way with what’s on the Times Square boards. It’s just a shame Ricky Martin and crew won’t be around to get kicked to the curb-Miss DuBois, one suspects, would have made a fine Evita.
"Distorted Diznee" runs Fridays at 10pm, at The Laurie Beechman Theater (located inside West Bank Cafe at 407 West 42nd Street-at Ninth Avenue, accessible from the A, C, E, N, R, V, F, 1, 2 & 3 trains at 42nd Street). Tickets are $15 (plus a $15 food/drink minimum). To purchase tickets, call 212-352-3101or visit www.SpinCycleNYC.com.